First, let me say that these cabbage rolls were outstanding!! However, I found this recipe to be so difficult to follow that I have modified it here for those who would like to give this dish a try. The original recipe was designed for 12 cabbage rolls, but 8 really produces a better cabbage to filling ratio. I do advise that you work with a few extra cabbage leaves. They are quite helpful in filling in holes and extending the leaf when rolling. My husband suggested that we use 1 lb. of ground sausage in the future. I have to say that I agree with him — the ground beef did not really add any flavor value even when combined with 1/4 lb. of ground pork. I also found that the sauce was a little thin once the cabbage rolls were cooked. I took about 3 T. of the sauce and added a little bit of flour to it and, then, added it slowly back into the sauce to thicken it. This recipe is a little work intensive, but it is so worth the effort. The cabbage rolls are very attractive when plated and complete meal all by itself.
STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS (Yields: 8 Cabbage Rolls)
- 4 quarts of water
- 1 large head of cabbage (will need 12 cabbage leaves)
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- Start boiling 4 QT water and add 2 tsp. salt when boiling. Remove the center core of the cabbage with a knife.
- Completely submerge the whole cabbage and cook the cabbage until the leaves are pliable and started to peel off, about 5 minutes. Using kitchen tongs or a fork, peel off and take out loosen outer cabbage leaves from the pot.
- Soak the cabbage leaves in iced water to stop the cooking process. Remove excess water from them with a salad spinner or pat dry with paper towel. Trim the tough, thick center vein at the base of each leaf (upside-down V shape). Alternatively, you can shave down this thick part. For a beginner cook, I recommend simply cutting it off.
- Chop the thick veins into small pieces, which will be added to the stuffing.
- 1 lb. ground meat (preferably ¼ lb. pork and ¾ lb. beef)
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup panko
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- ½ tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt (½ tsp. table salt)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 T. all-purpose flour
- Mince the onion. With the knife tip pointing toward the root, thinly slice the onion within ½ inch off the base. Then slice the onion horizontally and cut perpendicular to the first slices you made. If the onions need to be chopped finer, you can run your knife through them in a rocking motion.
- In a frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil on medium heat and sauté onion until softened, about 4 to 6 minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix the meat, sautéed onion, and the chopped vein parts of the cabbage with your clean hands or a wooden spoon.
- Add 1 egg, ⅓ cup panko, 2 Tbsp. milk, ½ tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper.
- Mix well until the mixture is sticky and combined. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes (this step is optional; however, it helps to solidify fat, keep the meat juicy and prevent from drying out, and enhance and trap the umami flavor.)
- Divide the mixture into 8 equal parts.
- Put 1 T. of the flour into a fine sieve for dusting. Working with 1 leaf at a time, overlap the bottom of cabbage leaf where you see the upside down V-shape. Lightly dust the flour over the cabbage leaf. The flour helps the stuffing stick to the cabbage and acts as biding agent. Add the stuffing in the center of the bottom part of the cabbage leaf.
- Starting with the stem end, roll the cabbage up tightly, tucking in the sides of the leaf as you roll.
- Use one hand to pull the edge of the leaf and roll the fillings tightly toward the edge.
- Insert a toothpick to seal and secure the edge so the roll doesn’t fall apart while cooking. Repeat with the remaining leaves and stuffing. What if the cabbage leaf is broken? You can still use it. Use a smaller cabbage leaf to “patch” up and roll the fillings the same way.
- 1 T. olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 (14.5-oz, 411 g) can of diced tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp. white wine
- 1/2 t. salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup (240 ml) chicken/vegetable stock
- 1/2 T. butter
- parsley for garnish (optional)
- In a large pot (I use 6 ¾ QT. oval Dutch oven), heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil on medium heat and cook 2 bay leaves and minced garlic until fragrant. Then stir in the diced tomatoes.
- Reduce the heat to medium low. Add 1 Tbsp. white wine, ½ tsp. salt, and freshly ground black pepper, and bring it to simmer on medium heat.
- Place the cabbage rolls side by side in rows, seam side down, in the pot. If there are open spaces, stuff the leftover cabbage in the opening so the cabbage rolls won’t move around while cooking. Pour 1 cup of chicken/vegetable broth.
- Place Otoshibuta (drop lid) on top of the cabbage rolls. If you don’t have a drop lid or your pot is not round, you can make it with aluminum foil. Cut a sheet of aluminum foil and fold the edges up into a circle so that the lid fit fit inside the pot. Make several vents in the middle and place it down onto the simmering foods. Cover to cook on medium heat. After boiling, lower the heat to medium low heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add ½ Tbsp. butter to give it a little shine and more flavor.
- When you are ready to serve, carefully pick up the stuffed cabbage roll with kitchen tongs and put in a serving dish. Remove the toothpick and pour the sauce on top. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Otoshibuta (drop lid)